Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Un jour des hommes etranges

So, first of all, my fruit tart was delicious. However, today was not so fruity. I spent all morning getting ready and trying to decide if I should skip class. While walking to the metro, I decided it was the only day I could skip and a 3 hour lecture just seemed ridiculous. So, I decided to take the morning (since I was already up) and do work. We took the bus to campus which took over an hour (not the most efficient method of transportation) and I went to Starbucks and got a latte. Only problem was you can’t get internet there. The instructions were in French and terribly confusing so I’m not sure if there is a way but I gave up and went to the computer lab. I hung out in the lounge until my computer died, then did more work in the lab (after having many technical difficulties with the computers).

At 12:30 I decided to walk to France Tourism and attempt to go on the Giverny tour. Yes, by myself. I was feeling independent and decided I really needed to do at least one of the six day trips I had been wanting to do. I walked about two miles into the center of the city only to find out they were booked. Ugh. I emailed, Facebooked, and texted a classmate, hoping they didn’t leave to do something fun right from class. I bought a sandwich and took the metro home, terribly disappointed.

When I got back, I knocked on my friend’s door, figuring it was a lost cause. But, she was home! So we spent the rest of the day in Montmartre, crossing another thing off the list. However, the trip was not without its adventures. Montmartre is known for their pickpockets so as if I’m not already super cautious, I was especially anxious about my wallet which was safely at the bottom of my zipped-up bag. But, we took lots of pictures, wandered through Sacre-Coeur (including the crypt!) and went to souvenir shops and bought some touristy things. While wandering to find the Moulin Rouge, a creepy man set me up for a beggar trap. He was at least creative. He pretended to walk by us and find a gold ring and then tried to “do me a favor” and sell it to me for the price of a coffee. It took me a second to catch on (a second too long, now that I think about it). I mean come one, I’m a 21 (yes, still 21) year-old girl. You think I don’t know what real gold looks like?

Next, we wandered up a side street to get a look at the Moulin de la Gallette. They were cleaning the streets and a car drove by and sprayed us. A street cleaner explained to us (in very fast French) that it was Seine water (not comforting) and then told us to beware of pickpockets. Then he kissed us on both cheeks and asked us to take pictures with him. I was torn between amusement and being afraid of another money ploy. But, he was just generally entertaining.

We finally found the Moulin Rouge and took lots of pictures. It reminded me of a Broadway theater. Then, we got Starbucks (just needed a taste of home) and I started my Starbucks mug collection with a “Paris” mug. I still need a New York one….

We took the metro home and I’ve never been on a train so crowded. You literally couldn’t move if you tried and this time it took me only a few seconds to realize someone was attempting to pickpocket me. On a crowded train, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but the way his arm was bent and proceeded to move between people was a little too suspicious. The old man standing in front of me suddenly grabbed his pocket and it confirmed my suspicion. The train got a little less crowded with every stop and unfortunately the pickpocketer got off at our stop. He was way too creepy. I kept my eye on him but I think I started to channel the rage from when I was pickpocketed last year. Jerk.

Anyway, we made it home safe and sound and with our wallets in tact. We tried to rent bikes to see the city. They only cost 1 euro but they wanted a 150 euro deposit. Forget it. We bought quiche and went home. Now, it’s homework time. Ugh. But tomorrow is my birthday (which I keep forgetting about). I think we have some good plans. A haunted Paris tour? We’ll see ….

Monday, June 14, 2010

Devoir au café

I spent most of the day doing homework at Amex, the campus café. I got a decent amount done and enjoyed the atmosphere. The café is so Americanized it makes me feel at home. The World Cup was on too, so I got to say I watched that too. I had a mushroom quiche and bought some coffee at the bar. By the time the kitchen opened my friend and I couldn’t resist the French fries.

After, I took a trip to Concorde to go to Longchamp and get some bags while they’re cheap. The trip was a success and I made it home trying to decide if I should buy dinner or eat my soup (all I have left). I settled on soup but when I got stuck at the cross walk near my residence I saw a fruit tart through the window and decided if I was saving money on dinner, I may as well buy dessert. I haven’t had it yet, but I’ll let you know how it is.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Les Cafés et le Marais

Yesterday I was the happiest I’ve ever been to sleep in. I woke up late, took my time getting ready, then eventually made it to school to do some work. However, I was with the girls so we spent a lot of time giggling and surfing the web and didn’t get much done. Oh well. I did have a fantastic quiche champignon (mushroom) and of course another pain au chocolat (gotta get my daily fix). On the way home we stopped at a café for dinner and had cous cous. It was pretty much all the had. Vegetable cous cous, chicken cous cous…. I guess the French are really embracing the Moroccan cuisine. We also ordered some Bordeaux which wasn’t too bad. Although, I’m pretty happy with my 1 euro bottles of wine.

At night we went to visit a friend from school in the Marais district. Why couldn’t we live there? The area was gorgeous and the nightlife amazing. I couldn’t keep track of all of the cafés, pubs, and bars we passed. Oh, and the shopping. Apparently it’s the “East Village” of Paris and extremely difficult to get an apartment in. If I come back – no, WHEN I come back – I’m staying there.

We went to a British pub and I had some cider. We hung around and talked for a bit and then the city fatigue swept in and we were ready for bed. A couple stayed out, a couple of us went back. And once I got home around 1:00 and began to set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. for my castle tour, then begin to map out where I had to take the metro in the morning, I decided to give myself the opportunity to sleep in. I was disappointed I canceled my castle tour but then again, I’d prefer to go with someone anyway. Next time I’m in Paris, I guess. Then I wont have 5 days of class and 7 days of homework draining me.

So today I’m determined to do as much homework as I can so I can make the most of my last week in Paris. I want to go to Giverny (Monet’s house and gardens), a castle or two (Fontainbleu, Vieux le Vicomte), and of course, shopping. Maybe I’ll get to that last one today.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Le Palais des Etats Unis

Today we visited the residence of the American Ambassador. Wow. I would be the Ambassador to France any day. Supposedly it’s one of the nicest American Ambassador residencies and was built in the 1800s by a rich woman from Louisiana who married a diplomat. Then someone else bought it and added onto it and in World War II was occupied by the Nazis who added a theater. To me, the place looked like a mini-Versaille. I’d pick that place over the White House. Beautiful gold lining paintings on the ceiling, portraits, Victorian furniture, gorgeous gardens … everyone just gasped when they walked in. The only things that brought it into this century were the pictures of Obama on every end table. Plus, they setup a buffet for the guests: mini croissants, pan au chocolat, fresh fruit salad, cereal, juice, coffee, tea, waiters grabbing empty dishes out of your hands – I felt like royalty.

I made conversation with the ambassador’s intern and a woman who worked at the embassy. Then we watched the documentary that brought us all there. The documentary, “25 Percent,” was about women in parliament in Afghanistan. It was fascinating to see the people who try to keep rights away from women that we take for granted in the U.S.

Afterwards, we visited Place de Concorde since it was just around the corner. (As was Prada, Gucci, Valentino, and any other unaffordable store you can think of. Good job, America, you’ve made it into the high class district.) Then two of us walked up the Champs Elysée to “window-lick” as they call it in France. I stopped in the five-story Louis Vuitton store just to say I went. Then, after a long metro ride home, I grabbed a Croque Monsieur and a peach iced tea.

Tonight, we’re headed to the bar to watch the World Cup. Europe is fantastic.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Napoleon et Le Cinema

Today was rainy again. I dreaded going to class but trekked across the city feeling accomplished just for making it there. An extra-long lecture didn’t help the matter but my assignments got reduced from 3 museum reports to 2 so it was worth it. Finally, a realization that the work is way too heavy. Wish it came sooner in the course.

After a trip to the computer lab and a kebab in the park for lunch with my classmate, I met with my TA about my project. I got some good ideas (whew - I might make it to 4,000 words) and then decided to stop at the Invalides to visit Napoleon’s Tomb on the way back. It wasn’t worth the 9 euro but I knew if I didn’t do it I’d regret it. I’ve been talking about going for years; now I can say I was there. I wandered home via metro but while transferring at the Opéra metro stop, I decided to go shoe shopping. Yes, there is a shoe store in the metro – it is Paris, after all. I tried a few pairs, but none of them fit right. I was discouraged I didn’t have appropriate flats to wear in this crazy weather and on these dirty streets, but the fact that the man understood my French had me ecstatic. I even had the confidence that I normally lack in foreign conversation.

Anyway, I eventually made it home and had some leftover Pasta Ponza and listened to music. I even started my reading for next week – how ambitious am I? Then the girls and I went to the movies. Prince of Persia in English with French subtitles – that’s an experience. Although it was slightly predictable with a disappointing ending, I love those types of movies. They remind me why I picked my concentration.

Tomorrow, we visit the Ambassador’s house. Yes, the American Ambassador. My professor got an invite yesterday and the coordinator suggested he bring the whole class. We’ll be viewing a video about the women in Afghanistan, which I actually find fascinating. It amazes me the way people live (or don’t).

I just had some leftover baguette with jam and finished some more homework. What a night. Ok, time for bed.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

La Musique Parisienne et L'Histoire de l'Immigration

Another crazy day. Last night we went out to a bar with a good music scene. A ton of Americans and Brits all sang and the amazing thing was every one of them was good. Even the original pieces were surprisingly entertaining. Huddled in a basement with dim lighting, a Jack and Coke, and some inspiring music – this is Paris. It reminded me of why I love it. After, we stayed to chat with the bartender and his friends. Everyone in this city is so multi-cultured. The people we meet can generally not define where they’re from because they’re from everywhere.

The cab didn’t stop at our door till almost 3:30 so it was a good thing class was delayed until 2:00 p.m. We met at the Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration at the Palais de la Porte Dorée. It’s an immigration museum that tells the history of immigrants in France since the 19th century and serves as a reminder and to increase awareness of this population in France. After, three of us went with our professor and TA to the Buddhist temple across the street. Well, at least we thought it was across the street. It was actually across the street down a long path in the park. We did get a personal lesson on the religion from a Buddhist, which our professor translated (our shoes were off and everything). The religion is all about controlling desire and essentially being in touch with yourself and a good person. It reminds me of the therapy constantly being pushed in America. While yoga became popular practice in the West and quickly became disassociated with religion, meditation is doing the same. Buddhist ritual is congruent with mindfulness (something that didn’t work for me). Anyway, enough school for now.

By the time we decided to leave it started to pour. We decided to wait out the storm in a pagoda where Cambodians were having some kind of cultural gathering. They were selling various Asian foods so I got 2 spring rolls and a sandwich. I forgot how much I love Asian cuisine. We also watched the boys do some crazy acrobatics – lifting each other up by the hands and balancing on top of each other.

Eventually, the rain got worse and we ended up sprinting back to the metro. By the time we arrived, my jacket was soaked through (yes, my rain jacket) and my pants felt about thousand pounds heavier. By the time we got home it was almost 7:00 and I couldn’t believe where the day went. I wrote an essay and am currently anticipating doing my reading and responses while cooking Pasta Ponza in a way-too-tiny kitchen. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a minute to breathe. But that’s okay. This is the way I like to live.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Les Invalides et Petit Palais

Class was boring and sleepy as usual. We had a guest lecturer, Christophe Jaffrelot, who was a very smart and funny Frenchman that does research on nationalism. Not my cup of tea as far as a topic goes but then again, none of this political stuff is. After, I decided to make the most of my day and go to Les Invalides and visit Napoleon’s Tomb. Les Invalides were gorgeous, of course (I mean, they’re in Paris) but it was 9 euro to see the tomb. I decided to take some time to evaluate the worth of those 9 Euros and went to Le Petit Palais with a classmate. We saw lots of 19th and 20th century art but most of the museum was closed (no reason given). There was also an exhibition for Yves St Laurent (yeah, I don’t know who that is either) and that took up half of the museum. There was a second floor garden, which I thought was gorgeous and so French.

After, we took a walk up the Champs-Elysée and ended up reading on a bench in the park. A long metro-ride home and a quick trip to the grocery store ended the day. I bought my very own baguette, which I was very excited about. Now my homework continues to follow me wherever I go so it’s that time of night. More museums tomorrow. Hoping for the best.